Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Nepal relaxes some domestic COVID-19 restrictions as of July 22. Entry restrictions, international commercial travel ban continues.

  • Alert Begins: 22 Jul 2020 04:26 AM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 31 Jul 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions, quarantine measures; possible clashes

Summary
Nepali authorities are easing some domestic coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-related measures from July 22. Officials are allowing sports facilities to reopen. They have also lifted the odd-even rule for private vehicle use following the easing of public transport restrictions previously. Intradistrict public transport services are functional with 50 percent passenger load; limited interdistrict services operate in the Kathmandu Valley, comprising Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, and Lalitpur districts. Officials also announced other planned relaxations which may be rescinded, delayed or modified at short notice. These measures include the reopening of eateries, hospitality businesses such as hotels, and trekking services July 30, and the resumption of long-distance public transport and passenger transit through land borders with China and India Aug. 17. Authorities also intend to resume domestic and international commercial flight travel Aug. 17; international flight passengers may require medical certification.

The government continues to maintain other restrictions until further notice. Officials are imposing previously enacted commercial, gathering, and transport restrictions. Gatherings of more than 15 people are banned; businesses are allowed to remain open, albeit while practicing social distancing measures. Authorities are keeping education facilities, religious places, and other recreational areas closed. Interprovincial travel is prohibited as of July 22; officials plan to allow long-distance travel from Aug. 17, though this could change at short notice. Authorities are making exceptions for people traveling with prior permission or essential purposes; the strictest enforcement of travel restrictions will likely be in Kathmandu. Cargo transport is unaffected. Other previously imposed measures that will probably remain in effect include limits on nonessential movement, the wearing of protective mask in public, and a 2200-0500 nightly curfew.

Nepalese authorities may impose stricter movement and commercial restrictions in higher risk areas experiencing escalating COVID-19 activity. Officials may seal off high-risk areas, limiting entry and exit for essential services. Residents of affected areas may be required to remain in their homes for extended periods. Although banks and businesses selling essential goods such as fuel, food, and medicines would likely remain open, panic-buying and associated localized shortages of essential goods may occur in some areas. While transport availability is significantly affected, industries can apply for special permits to maintain supply delivery.

Provincial administrations and security personnel are ensuring compliance with the control measures. Sporadic clashes are possible if any group attempts to defy movement and business restrictions. Police will likely act quickly to control such incidents.

Additional Travel Restrictions
Domestic and international commercial flights remain suspended as of July 22. Authorities are allowing chartered flights for humanitarian, cargo, and other essential purposes into the country.

Nepal has also suspended on-arrival and electronic visa issuance for all foreign nationals and nonresident Nepalese until further notice. Earlier, authorities mandated travelers to contact their local Nepali diplomatic mission for visa approval and submit a swab test results demonstrating that the individual is COVID-19-free within seven days before the intended travel date. Officials continue to advise Nepali citizens against nonessential international travel. Health checks are mandatory at all entry points. Officials are advising incoming travelers, regardless of nationality, to self-isolate for two weeks or undergo a 14-day quarantine at home or in a medical facility based on medical screening outcomes. Intensified land border patrols to prevent unauthorized entry continue, especially along the India-Nepal border; sporadic arrests and clashes are possible.

Nepal is allowing cargo transit at land borders. The Rasuwagadi and Tatopani crossings with China are open; only Chinese imports, mainly essential goods, are allowed through the border. Cargo handlers must follow health precautions, including wearing protective gear and undergoing frequent medical screenings. Land border trade with India is limited to the import of essential items as well. Shipping disruptions are possible, especially if Nepalese authorities reintroduce an entry rule barring transporters without Nepalese citizenship. Officials withdrew the measure after shipping disruptions at the Sanauli border check-post with India June 5-7.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the Nepali government are similar to actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm business appointments, deliveries, and travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Ensure access to essential items; plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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